In its latest report the Commonwealth Fund, an American organisation that surveys healthcare in 11 rich countries, showed that the UK came second only to the Netherlands in quality of service.
The UK is ahead of Germany, France and the USA. A total of 92 per cent of the UK population are confident or very confident that they would get the most effective treatment if ill. The proportion of people in the UK who think that fundamental change in their healthcare system is needed is the lowest of all countries.
Healthcare costs are rising, but only New Zealand spends less than the UK. Despite this, the NHS has to save £20bn by 2015. Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the House of Commons health committee and former Conservative Secretary of State for Health, has expressed concern this may not be possible while the service is engaging in a major re-organisation.
The majority of professional bodies in the NHS are opposed to the Government’s NHS and Social Care Bill. The most adamantly opposed is the Royal College of General Practitioners, a body whose members might be thought to gain more in influence, authority and income if the Bill becomes law.
At a time when workers in different parts of the health service are working more and more co-operatively and survival rates from cancer and heart disease are improving, the GPs’ college sees the intrusion of the market as a threat to co-operative working.
We have the same problems in the NHS as do all rich countries. Costs are increasing. Accident and emergency services, out-of-hours emergency care, and services for our increasing elderly population are all under strain.
However, opening up the NHS to the market will not improve these services. The USA, the country with the most market-driven healthcare system, gives its people the worst and most expensive healthcare.
The Government should think again, drop its Bill and consult with all parties with a stake in healthcare to search for solutions that will not damage the NHS.
Retired consultant paediatrician and medical director
Former hospital trust chairman